Luxembourg is getting ready to legalize cannabis.
Following Luxembourg’s parliamentary elections in 2018, the coalition led by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel signaled that cannabis policy reform would be part of its five-year government plan. Since then, officials have been at work to determine how the tiny European country should approach legalizing cannabis for adult use.
In May 2019, Cannabis Wire noted that the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a non-governmental organization based in Geneva that advocates for reform, posted a tweet showcasing a meeting with Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider and Minister of Justice Félix Braz. Earlier that month, the Luxembourg government shared that Schneider and Braz also traveled to Canada for a “study visit” to explore the legalization of “recreational cannabis,” which could include domestic production. According to the Ministry of Justice, the trip to Canada is part of a series of planned visits that includes other European nations and, possibly, Uruguay.
Their purpose, said the Ministers, is to “learn from other countries’ experiences and avoid mistakes from the outset.” In their summary, the Ministers also expressed a preference for full legalization of cannabis, as opposed to decriminalization, as a means to distance consumers from the illicit market.
While the country has a population of about 567,000, it could the first in Europe to assume this undertaking. And while Luxembourg officials have indicated that adult use sales will be limited to its residents, as noted in this op-ed by Global Commission on Drug Policy executive secretary Khalid Tinasti, the legalization of adult use in Luxembourg could impact all of Europe. An end to prohibition, he projects, will alter “trafficking routes, the quality of available cannabis, and play a role in the selling price in these neighboring countries.”
“When the market dries up in a geographic territory,” Tinasti wrote, “it moves to more welcoming territories, just as compressed air in one side of a balloon reappears on the other.”
To learn more about what the country is doing to prepare for the legalization of adult use, Cannabis Wire reached out to Monique Putz at Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health. (This Q&A has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Julia Barajas, Cannabis Wire: What can you share about Luxembourg’s cannabis-related discussions with the Global Commission on Drug Policy?
Monique Putz, Luxembourg: At present, reflections, fact finding and analyses are being carried out within the Ministry of Health, as well as in close collaboration with the other ministries directly involved (in particular the Ministry of Justice), concerning the constraints and implications that the different approaches, models and legislative changes may have.
Also, [the government has set up] an interministerial “task force,” extended to the other ministries concerned (Economy, Agriculture, etc.) and actors in the field, [as a means to] broad consultation and open exchange.
CW: Can you tell us more about Luxembourg’s fact-finding visits to other nations?
Putz: In order to benefit from the experience gained, several exchanges with international experts have taken place, or will take place during visits abroad.
Canada has its own context and social habits. Although we can adopt and learn a lot from their laws and experiences in general, Luxembourg will adopt its own model, which will take into account our specific context and challenges we are facing.
So far, we have been on fact-finding visits to the Netherlands, Portugal and Canada. The visits made it even clearer to the Luxembourg government that the regulation of cannabis must be founded on a coherent and strong health approach, thus protecting the health of its citizens by promoting safe consumption patterns of cannabis and giving them access to controlled quality cannabis products.
CW: When it comes to the bill to allow for adult use in Luxembourg, what is top-of-mind for officials and regulators?
Putz: A coherent health approach, based on harm reduction. One of our core aims is to reduce the problematic use of cannabis, due to the frequency and pattern of consumption. There are numerous increased health risks and risks of addiction associated with the smoking of cannabis cigarettes with tobacco.
CW: Are there any foreign or multinational companies lobbying for this policy change?
Putz: No, not all.